Thursday, October 11, 2007

On the MMP Referendum

There is a lot of grumbling in the media today about the failure of MMP to win the referendum. A lot of it is coming from academics. Here's a nice example.

I don't have much to add to this debate, save the following three points:

i) There is absolutely no evidence right now that the Elections Ontario education campaign was ineffective. There are some rather esoteric statistical reasons for why this can be said with confidence, but it's true.
ii) There is little evidence that I know of which suggests that the arguments for MMP are more convincing than those for FPTP, when they are pitted head-to-head.
iii) We don't know if the YES side's campaign was effective or not. Indeed, their materials may very well have turned voters off electoral reform.

This is an admittedly very self-serving post. I have no horse in this race, but I am in the process of completing a study on the referendum with Daniel Rubenson. We are both pretty ambivalent about electoral reform, but we are curious about the reasons for the reform campaign's failure or success. To that end, during the election we conducted a series of experiments -- both in the field and in surveys -- to try to answer the questions above. And we now have a survey in the field which will also help to answer them. We'll have no quick answers, but they'll likely be alright and plausible when they do come out, and they certainly won't be as self-serving as those proferred up in the article cited above. It's time that advocates for electoral reform - those great democrats - at least acknowledge the possibility that other citizens may not share their views. Academics should be at the forefront of that.

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